Outlander season 6 spoilers follow.
Well known for playing deadly sorcerer Mordred in Merlin and the more light-hearted Prince Philippe in Versailles, Welsh actor Alexander Vlahos is getting back in the saddle for two more period dramas, both on screen this March.
As well as a role in the second series of 19th-century drama Sanditon, Vlahos joins the sixth season of Outlander as Allan Christie, whose unexpected arrival on Fraser’s Ridge with his father Tom (Mark Lewis Jones) and sister Malva (Jessica Reynolds) is destined to have huge ramifications for Jamie and Claire and their family.
“There’s almost a snowball effect with the Christies, where they do one thing which then leads to something else, which then leads to heartache and destruction and carnage,” Alexander teases about his character’s role in the new season.
Digital Spy caught up with Alexander Vlahos to chat about all things Fraser’s Ridge, the new season of Sanditon, his love of directing, and how he got in trouble with the Outlander cast and producers…
How did your role in Outlander season six come about?
In 2020, I had made a little vow with my agent that we were no longer going to be doing any more period dramas. Throughout my very lucky and blessed career, I’ve had the absolute joy of being surrounded by chainmail, or horses, or dragons, or 17th-century corridors in Versailles, and I said let’s try and avoid any more as I am starting to get a bit of a reputation as the bad boy of period dramas!
But then Matt [Roberts] and Maril [Davis], the Outlander executive producers, reached out and said that I had been on their radar for quite a while. When Matt Roberts was over filming season three or four of Outlander, Versailles was on telly and he was very aware of Philippe and he was a big fan.
He said they were trying to get me to come into the show for quite a while so I think they were just waiting for the opportunity for, I guess, the right part, and that just so happened to be Allan Christie.
What can you tell us about Allan?
Allan Christie is the youngest son of Tom Christie and the older brother to Malva Christie, and they arrive on the Ridge as settlers. They try to make a little claim for their own piece of Scotland in America, Tom Christie has some previous history with Jamie Fraser from Ardsmuir Prison.
Allan on paper feels like almost a carbon copy of his father – very pious, will do anything his father says – but we quickly realise that he is quite mischievous, rebellious, he’s got a playful side and he is looking to make a claim for himself in Fraser’s Ridge.
He’s trying to step out of his dad’s shadow and become the man he believes that he is, and by doing so in the first couple of episodes he is trying to force his way into having his own identity. He ruffles a few feathers and sets in motion with his sister a chain of events that trickles all the way through season six and causes disruption and carnage.
Fans of the books will know just what carnage Allan and his family cause. Is it hard to keep plot twists fresh when some viewers know what is coming?
People who know about the books are very aware of what the Christies represent to Claire and Jamie, and to Outlander as a whole. It’s the same as when I played Mordred [in Merlin] – the minute I was cast, people were very aware that it was probably leading to the destruction and end of Camelot.
You’re doing loads of press interviews saying ‘No, no, that’s not the case, it’s not as black and white on paper,’ and then on Christmas Day I killed King Arthur!
You have to tread a very fine line between the knowledge that is proceeding what you’re coming into the show for, and also the fact that the TV show does steer away from the books in some moments.
What were the hardest scenes to film as Allan Christie?
Being Allan in general because he’s almost a dichotomy, he’s almost polar in the decisions that he makes. It was tricky to work out what Allan you were dealing with that day – was it the protective Allan, was it the playful side of Allan, was it the mischievous side, was it the pious side – and trying to make the character fully rounded and a good representation of what people have read in the books.
In episode one when the Christies arrive, I have a lovely scene with John Bell [who plays Young Ian] involving a gunpowder horn and that was really fun to do – it is the start of a massive ripple effect in the Ridge, and from that scene onwards Allan upsets many people and it just has this lovely effect throughout the season.
Anything else that was difficult to film?
Some of the scenes in episodes six and eight, where it is absolutely chaotic on the Ridge and the Christies, and Allan especially, are just fighting against everyone and anything that has a heartbeat – those scenes were incredibly difficult to tap into emotionally.
Sam [Heughan] and Cat [Balfe] as series regulars are in every scene, so you have the momentum where you turn up every day, whereas sometimes I would have a couple of weeks off and then I would have to come in and deliver probably one of the most emotional scenes I have ever had to do as an actor, and that is hard.
It is almost like having a cardiac arrest and that defibrillator kicks you awake – you’re off for two weeks and then it’s, ‘Right, are you ready to do the most important scene you have ever done?’ Whoa – no pressure!
Have you gained a lot of social-media followers since joining Outlander?
I have been very blessed with huge shows that have had huge fandoms, from Merlin into Versailles. I was blessed by having these very strong, opinionated, creative, loving, loyal fans. Outlander is the same but bigger, and I am overwhelmed by the support – people knew I was in Glasgow, there were a couple of articles guessing what part I would be playing.
It reminded me of when I was confirmed to be in Merlin and people were trying to guess what part I was playing in that.
On social media, I have a very cheeky way of talking to the fans. I am very open about who I’m playing and I want to include them in it because without the fans there would be no shows.
I was told many times throughout filming Outlander, and I had many tiny slaps on the wrist from the cast and people in production because I was quite open and forthright online. Then I realised quite quickly that if you post one little photo, people will be dissecting every pixel to see if there is a spoiler.
I think there was the side of someone’s face [in a photo] and people started going into meltdown because it might have been a certain cast member. Within the first month of filming in Glasgow I realised I just needed to be off social media!
What can you say about your role in the new season of Sanditon?
After finishing Outlander, I was like, ‘Right, I’m done with period dramas, that’s it,’ and then my wonderful agent called me and said: ‘They want you for Sanditon, season two and three.’ Okay, then!
In season two and three, Sanditon goes further away from the Jane Austen material, it is now very much a good TV drama and less about the book. You still have the main core characters of Charlotte and Georgiana and Arthur and Mary Parker, and I play Charles Lockhart who is a famous portrait artist. He has been around the world, has lived in Paris and St Tropez and Germany and he comes to Sanditon for a commission of a new painting and quite quickly ruffles a lot of feathers.
The style of a Jane Austen novel is quite formal, people don’t say what they really want to say, they are quite closed, and I got to be the complete opposite of a traditional Austen character.
It was a joy to be Charles Lockhart as I got to break all the rules. He never held a cane, he never held a hat, he would put his feet on the table, he would smoke a cigar inside like he didn’t care, he was a complete rock star.
For me as an actor you are always looking for the opposite of what you have just done, so coming from Allan Christie to Charles Lockhart was the biggest jump, and I had so much fun playing both parts.
You’ve also directed three short films, including one last year called I Am One starring your Outlander ‘dad’ Mark Lewis Jones. Is directing the next step for you?
I’ve been acting since I was 14, and I’ve been working solidly since I left drama school in 2009. I found that directing is my calling, but I wouldn’t have been able to become a good director had I not been a good actor, one has had to follow the other. Hopefully, directing is something I will be doing long into my 70s and 80s, but for now, March 2022 is the busiest of my career, with Outlander and Sanditon both arriving in the same month.
Friends of mine are calling it “Vlarch” – they have renamed the month of March with my name, which I am thrilled about…
Outlander season six premieres on STARZPLAY in the UK and STARZ in the US on March 6.